Ever since I started reading up and seeing everything about Goa, it rubbed off on me as a place full of history, culture, and beauty. However, every itinerary that would pop up either had the best spots to go party or the best beaches. While all of those listicles stood true, the presence of something more that I hadn’t come across yet kept me on my toes around the idea of making a trip to Goa myself.
Now thankfully, I made a few friends who shared a similar perspective about Goa. So, when we spoke and realized how we’re all after similar things, the first trip became inevitable. All five of us hotblooded teenagers made a plan, booked tickets, made reservations, and then scattered to ask our folks for permission.
The fact that we already had our money into the trip was motivation enough to effectively get all permissions required. In a fraction of a second, we found ourselves on Thivim Railway Station on a fine day in the February of 2019, and a love story began.
When I started writing this blog, one of the biggest challenges I faced was condensing five years’ worth of memories and experiences into one blog. I’ve been there with friends, with romantic interests, and both those entities together as well. So, while there is a list of places and things that stayed consistent to some extent, the way I absorbed each trip was vastly different. I want to talk about all of them in extreme detail, but then I might as well write a book.
So, instead of every trip and every experience, I’ll talk about the few places that stole my heart a little, and still, to this day, have me yearning to go back. Without further ado, here’s my love story, placed on a map of Goa.
Whenever I visit Goa, I reserve an apartment in Candolim. It lies in the middle of the most popular stretch in North Goa and is the perfect place to set base. It ensures we’re close to all tourist attractions and markets, and most importantly lets us find things open at the nth hour.
Candolim Beach also isn’t as party-oriented as Baga, nor as family-oriented as Calangute. However, it does have everything you might want to do. In fact, the first time around, as soon as we got to the guest house, we headed to a shack on Candolim Beach to officiate our entry into the state with a beer. Then we saw the number of things we could do in the course of the trip, and given how peaceful yet lively the place was, decided to enjoy our evening there itself.
This has since become a tradition and I still see new things every time I go there. You’ve got amazing food, shops, and outlets for everything between tattoos, clothes, and furniture, and you’ve got a bunch of beach-related activities like boating, sheesha shops, water sports, and much more.
The best part about this beach was that we always found the crowd to be manageable. Even when I went there on a couples retreat, I can confidently say I had enough space to myself. Maybe it is just the nostalgia I have attached to this place, or maybe it is as awesome as I think it is. Either way, Candolim, with its beach and the rest of the locality, is one place I vouch for.
One of the few places to make all of us stop and stare with our jaws in the sand was Arambol. This beach was clean with light blue waters going beyond the horizon and golden sands that would blaze the bottom of your feet to remind you where you were. Alongside the beach is a small stone-walled gulley that leads to a smaller beach, called Mini Arambol, which has the sea on one side and a fresh-water lake on the other.
This part of Arambol is famous for two things - the recliners placed under a bunch of coconut trees right by the lake, and the banyan trees where The Beatles (yes, the English rock band) would visit and meditate during their stay in Goa. Given the scenery this landscape paints, with the golden sun hitting sands of a similar hue, the sea that joins the clear skies on the horizon, and the few shacks that serve the most generic-yet-mind blowing Goan menu, I’m not very surprised the band chose to chill here.
Now, imagine sitting at any one of the spots described above with your friends, your lover, or the peace of your own company by your side and watching the sea do its thing. Add a beer or a coconut to drink the water out of and the slightly warm sand under the shade of tall coconut trees that dance with the calm sea breeze. Looks like a good day, doesn’t it?
Located in South Goa, Cabo De Rama, is the site of an old coastal fort that lies beside a beach with the same name. Placed at the southernmost point in the state, this fort changed many hands throughout history before finally being under the control of the Portuguese and later the British. All the people and their cultures have left their marks on Cabo De Rama and it is evident in the resulting landscape.
Unfortunately, the fort is a partial ruin now. So, I’m missing quite a bit of the glory that it once held. However, the boundary wall that protects the fort on all sides, the beautiful blue-white church in the middle, and the stairways that lead to the beach are still standing strong. These man made structures, that are now a part of the terrain, still look out to the seas. The rocky seats at the top of the walls still put you in front of the open sea in the same way it did to the soldiers watching for ships that come in over a few hundred years.
The best part is, the journey to this place from North Goa is one smooth road that is surrounded by the best of urbania in some places, and a piece of Goa’s natural beauty in others.We visited this place a couple of times over the years and every time we did, it was truly nothing less than euphoria.
More often than not, a street with small buildings with a rainbow's worth of colors comes to mind when we think of Goa. The credit for this phenomenon goes to the Latin Quarter of Fontainhas. It's a small village very close to Panjim that houses multiple streets full of Portuguese buildings, some spectacular cafés and eateries, and a beautiful white church in the very center.
The first time I went there, the trip was a little hurried and we missed out on a few things because we didn’t really know what we were looking for. So the next time, we got to the village, parked our rentals, and started walking. All the lanes in Fontainhas are laid out in a square grid, making it very easy to navigate. Although, we didn’t want to navigate half the time because every wrong turn would lead us to a beautiful place that just felt right.
I took a stroll in the same alleys with my special someone while it was raining cats and dogs, and that was probably the most romantic thing to happen in Goa. Of course, it was followed by an hour-long ride while we were drenched and cold. But, I’d confidently say it was worth it.
Of the many, many gems of Anjuna, the first one in this list has to be the beach. Since it is a little far from the more popular Calangute-Candolim-Baga stretch, the crowds don’t get too crazy during the day. However, this little bit of distance makes it ideal for parties. As the sun sets and the party people step out, Anjuna becomes one of the biggest hubs for partying in Goa and you will hear music from every nook and cranny well into the morning.
However, if you’re here to just relax and want to socialize without as much movement and noise, Anjuna has that too! Places like Café Au Rhum and Artjuna give you the space and time to chill with your friends, make new friends, or even find a date! If you do have a date, you might want to check out places like Eva Cafe, and Happy Soul Café, which might be better venues for a romantic meal. All of these places, except Artjuna, are next to the beach and have sceneries laid out that will make you forget to get up.
If you’re looking for a place that is away from all the crowds and the noises of Goa, you might want to check out the beautiful homestays in Vagator. I stayed in one called Goodwill Guesthouse (shoutout to Josh and the D’souza fam!) and the place felt like it was picked out of one of Wordsworth’s poems.
I would wake up every morning with my then-girlfriend, grab a coffee sitting by the window of this white-walled, wood-ceiling chalet. Then, we’d step out of the place and ride to one of the smaller beaches in the vicinity, or go explore someplace. While quiet, calm, and comforting, I would like to put it out there that Vagator does get a little too isolated after dark.
So, plan your day in a way that allows you to come back to your accommodation before it gets dark. Also, when you are making plans, make sure you include a meal at Thalassa. It is a Greek restaurant that is built on the edge of land. The views from this restaurant show you a part of Chapora that juts out, creating a really cool contrast between the green and brown of the land and the blue seas. It is located near Siolim and I highly recommend booking a table a day or two in advance. This place is always booked and getting a table if you walk in is next to impossible.
Located between Baga and Anjuna, Arpora night market is one of the most popular bazaars in Goa, and for good reason! It’s located right by the main road and it's impossible to miss the tons of cars and bikes that fill the parking lot every Saturday.
It’s brightly lit and slightly hot because of the many zero-watt yellow bulbs shining in close proximity, throwing their light on the many pop-up shops and the colorful wares in them. You will literally find everything being sold here. Although, beware of the shopkeepers as they will be friendly to get you to their stores and then drive the hardest bargain ever.
When the stores tire you out in a couple of hours, you might want to head to my favorite part of this bazaar - the food court. Well, I say food court, but it has a few spots that sell a selection of drinks, a few sheesha shops, and some of the best food stalls I have seen in the entirety of Goa.
The last time I was there, people from around the world had set up shop to sell whatever dishes were their specialty and trust me, they made sure each one was special. Make sure you have one Sunday in your trip with not a lot planned for it, because this night market is not to be missed!
While I have made sure I talk about the highlights of all my trips in detail here, it isn’t quite how I fell in love with Goa. It flirts with you in much more subtle ways that you might not even register in the first go. The little things like buying booze and breakfast from the same supermarket, the perpetually peppy establishments, and the friendly locals who aren’t too afraid to speak their minds are what spark romance as you wander the streets.
Regardless of what places you visit with who, Goa has a way of making every trip feel like the first time. If you haven’t visited this tiny, beautiful state yet, I hope this blog makes you want to go. If you have been there before, I hope my story makes you want to go again!